THE response from the majortiy of residents in Gilford to the proposal to open an off-licence in the village has been described as “deeply disappointing”, after only six letters of objection were lodged with the Planning Department.
A number of residents who live near the retail unit last week told the Leader they would oppose any application for a licence to allow the sale of alcohol on the premises.
The currently empty premises at High Street on the way into the village has previously taken the form of a convenience store and an antique shop but has had the shutters down for the past year.
News that planning permission has been granted to re-open the unit as an off-licence has been slammed by residents who say it will invite strangers into the area and become a hang-out for party-goers and drunks.
But DUP councillor Junior McCrum said he was disappointed that residents hadn’t taken the opportunity to oppose the move before it had been given planning consent.
“David Simpson had been approached by residents who were against this move to add yet another off-licence to the village,” he said.
“We worked with residents and advised them to write letters of objection, given that there may be more weight if letters are sent people actually living there who could be affected by this.”
A 30-year-old mum was among those who last week spoke to the Leader of her worries for her seven-year-old son living in such close proximity to an off-licence.
“The thought of that being so close and the type of people that might be coming into and hanging around this area would scare me,” said Leanne Davidson.
“I wouldn’t want to let my son out because you wouldn’t know who is hanging around. And in a few year’s time I wouldn’t like to think of him having such easy access to alcohol.
“My 82-year-old granny lives close by and I wouldn’t want this to annoy her either.”
But Mr McCrum said he thought it regrettable that only five letters of objection, plus one from Upper Bann MLA David Simpson, were sent to planners before they made their decision in April.
“I dare say 100 letters would have been better than the six they got - it would have had much more of an impact and potentially stopped this but now we have a situation where planning permission has been granted and all the person is waiting for is to get a licence.”
There is still time to object to the licence and the local councillor appealed to anyone with reservations to get in touch.
“We would be more than happy to hear from people who wish to object to this,” he said. “There is a limited period left where we can contact the court once the licence is applied for.
“At the end of the day it will be too late for people to ocmplain about this after it is opened. It will be then that people will raise problems and experience the fall-out of this. The time to act is now.”